FIRST OF CRICKET’S HAIRY SCALPS
Three Pakistani cricketers are found guilty of match fixing. The spotlight shifts to other players in the subcontinent.
The verdict from the Southwark crown court in London that Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer are guilty of spot-fixing is likely to be the first of several such actions in world cricket. The International Cricket Council ( ICC) has now decided to re-investigate three more Pakistani cricketers, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz, as their names kept coming up during the spot-fixing trial in England. The court sentenced Butt to a 30-month jail term while Asif got a year in prison. Aamer was sentenced to six months in prison. Bookie Mazhar Majeed, who brokered the deal, was sentenced to 32 months in jail.
ICC is also likely to investigate a number of Indian, Sri Lankan, Australian and English players whose names figure in the testimony of News of the World journalist Mazhar Mahmood, whose sting operation exposed the racket. In his testimony to ICC in 2010, Mahmood talked about a sophisticated operation in the subcontinent where loads of cash are ferried across the Indian border by the underworld.
Immediately after the verdict, ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat asked Pakistan Cricket Board’s ( PCB) new President Zaka Ashraf to keep a close watch on the game and those in it. “This verdict can be the beginning of a major clean-up operation,” wrote Sunday Telegraph’s columnist Steve James.
For quite some time, the ICC has been under pressure for not being able to fix what many claim is burgeoning corruption in the game. A month ago, the ICC said it wanted anti-
‘‘ Pakistan cricket today stands in isolation, ‘‘ minus any friends.ehsan MANI, Former pcb president
corruption units in all cricket-playing nations. An investigation is on to unravel the alleged dubious links of the promoters of the abandoned Sri Lankan Premier League.
In London, former PCB president Ehsan Mani, convinced that more cricketers from the subcontinent could be in trouble, wanted a complete overhaul of the system. “Pakistan cricket stands in isolation, minus any friends. This is our darkest hour. Cricket needs a big clean-up, in Pakistan and other parts of the subcontinent,” Mani told INDIA TODAY.
Former England skipper Naseer Hussain wondered how ICC would carry out a detailed investigation. “No cricket board will object to a probe but the ICC must have great clues to start one.” It will be tough in cash-starved Pakistan and Sri Lanka. “Everyone here is desperate to make quick money all the time,” says former Pakistan pace bowler Sarfaraz Nawaz, whose calls for an investigation into the mess in Pakistan cricket have fallen on deaf ears.
PCB boss Ashraf, handpicked by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, recently convened an emergency meeting in Lahore to plan damagecontrol. He had a two-point agenda— to resurrect credibility of Pakistan cricket and ensure that Pakistan got to play its series against India next March. He must succeed on both counts to pull Pakistan cricket out of uncertainty and isolation.
(FROM LEFT) MOHAMMAD ASIF, SALMAN BUTTAND